Causes range from psychological effects of anonymity to differences in gender. WWII can be attributed to diffusion of responsibility. The diffusion bystander intervention in emergencies diffusion of responsibility pdf responsibility refers to the decreased responsibility of action each member of a group feels when he or she is part of a group. For example, in emergency situations, individuals feel less responsibility to respond or call for help if they know that there are others also watching the situation – if they know they are a part of the group of witnesses.
The diffusion of responsibility is present in almost all groups, but to varying degrees, and can be mitigated by reducing group size, defining clear expectations, and increasing accountability. In prosocial situations, individuals’ willingness to intervene or assist someone in need is inhibited by the presence of other people. The individual is under the belief that other people present will or should intervene. Thus, the individual does not perceive it as his or her responsibility to take action. This will not happen if the individual believes that they are the only one aware of the situation. If a bystander is deciding how to help, they may abstain from doing so if they believe that they lack the competence to be of aid.
In addition, diffusion of responsibility is more likely to occur under conditions of anonymity. In prosocial situations, individuals are less likely to intervene when they do not know the victim personally. Instead, they believe that someone who has a relationship with the victim will assist. As part of this process, individuals become less self-aware and feel an increased sense of anonymity. As a result, they are less likely to feel responsible for any antisocial behavior performed by their group.
Diffusion of responsibility is also a causal factor governing much crowd behavior, as well as risk-taking in groups. Contrary to anonymity, it has been shown that if one can utilize technology to prevent anonymity, it can further prevent diffusion of responsibility. Studies have shown that if emails are sent directly to individuals as opposed to addressing individuals in mass emails, they can prevent diffusion of responsibility and elicit more responses. In addition to eliciting more responses, the responses that were received from individuals, as opposed to groups, were much longer and helpful to the initial questions asked.
In an economics context, diffusion of responsibility can be observed in groups when a leader assigns tasks to individuals. To promote the concept of fairness, the leader will generally assign an equal amount of work to individuals within the group. This is in part due to the idea that people in general want to seem fair and kind. When people are subdivided into individual tasks they can often forget their role to the organization as a whole and get narrow minded into focusing on their own role. Individuals may unknowingly diffuse their responsibility to an organization by only doing what is required of them in their respective tasks. This is due to the fact that their focus for accountability is diverted from the organization to their individualized tasks. In organizations, diffusion of responsibility can be observed on the basis of roles and differing levels of expertise.
For instance, in a hierarchical structure, where your position in the organization is associated with your level of engagement to the group, people tend to diffuse accountability to those with greater responsibility and a higher level in the structure. Evidence from numerous research studies suggests “followers” have not taken responsibility because they feel they have a lower status in the organization. Many individuals in a group assume those with a greater level of power are held accountable for more and assume they take on a greater level of responsibility. The association of level of expertise or role and the amount of work required can cause people to feel varying levels of responsibility and accountability for their own contributions.